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County officials continue detail work on impact fees

October 31, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday continued to work on the details associated with finalizing an impact fee system, including preparing for the possibility that voters might petition the county to put the fees up for a countywide vote.

Under the state laws that allow impact fees, 15 percent of the registered voters in the county can petition the commission to put the issue on the ballot, the commissioners said.

A total of 3,667 signatures would be needed to put the issue on the ballot, the commissioners said.

The commissioners said such an election would be fairly simple because the ballots would simply say "yes" or "no" for impact fees.

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Commissioner Greg Corliss declined to say whether any voters have hinted they might try to put the issue up for a vote.

The commissioners have said they may vote on the proposed impact fee plan next Thursday. The fees, if approved, would go into effect Jan. 6, according a plan drafted by Corliss.

A Bethesda, Md., firm which developed an impact fee plan for the county suggested the commission pass a fee of about $8,300 for every home built in the county. The commissioners tentatively agreed to a fee of $7,121.

Impact fees are fees collected from developers to help pay for new public services needed because of growth. The commissioners have decided to collect fees for new school construction.

Mostly everyone agrees that developers will pass the cost of the fees along to home buyers through the price of a home.

That has caused concern about how it will affect some people's ability to purchase affordable housing, such as mobile homes.

On Thursday, Tom Trumble, a member of an affordable housing committee that was set up to examine the issue, proposed to the commissioners a reduced impact fee for lower-cost housing.

Trumble said the committee is proposing that the county's impact fee be reduced by one half to any new home that has a rent or mortgage of $600 a month or lower.

The proposal, one of eight Trumble made, can be changed, Trumble said.

"What we want to do is get the conversation started," Trumble said.

Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, told the commissioners he is pursuing legislation that would allow the county to set up a housing authority.

The authority could take in federal and state funds to help fund programs such as rent assistance efforts and home weatherization projects, Snyder said. The authority may also be needed to hold county money to offset impact fee reductions for affordable housing, Corliss said.

The commission has scheduled two workshops next week to continue discussions about proposed impact fees: Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 10 a.m. if needed.

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